PHILIPPINES: Lawyer Maria Saniata Liwliwa Alzate murdered
5 October 2023
Human rights lawyer Maria Saniata Liwliwa Alzate was murdered on Thursday 14 September 2023 in Bangued, Abra, Philippines.
Maria Saniata Liwliwa Alzate served two terms as President of the Integrated Bar Association of the Philippines. The assassination took place in front of her home, while she was in her car. She was shot dead in broad daylight by two people on a motorbike.
According to statements by the National Union of People’s Lawyers, Ms Alzate had provided legal assistance to a victim of illegal arrest and torture by members of the Philippine National Police in January 2023, for which she had obtained an amparo order issued by the Abra Regional Trial Court. She also provided pro bono legal services to poor people and acted as defence counsel in the murder of a teacher, allegedly by the president of a small district.
Furthermore, according to information received, Ms Alzate’s case is very similar to the murder of lawyer Juan Macababbad, who was also a human rights defender and who, at the time, held the position of Vice-President of the Union of People’s Lawyers of Mindanao in the Philippines. Macababbad had received death threats and was shot dead outside his home.
The Observatory notes with concern a series of killings of human rights lawyers in the Philippines, recalling the deaths of colleagues Ben Ramos, Anthony Trinidad and Eric Jay Magcamit, killed in 2018, 2019 and 2020 respectively. The attacks and murders against each of the aforementioned lawyers, resulting from the exercise of their profession, constitute a serious consequence and, in this regard, require urgent action by the appropriate authorities.
The Observatory calls on the Philippine authorities to take effective measures to protect the lives of lawyers in the exercise of their functions.
The Observatory sends its most sincere condolences to the family and friends of lawyer Maria Saniata Liwliwa Alzate, as well as to the legal community of the Philippines.
The Observatory urges the Philippine authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the murder of rights defender Ms Alzate in order to identify and prosecute the perpetrators.
The Observatory urges the Philippine authorities to comply with the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (1990), in order to guarantee the security and physical integrity of lawyers, in particular principles 17 and 18:
Principle 17: “Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.”
Principle 18: “Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.”
 National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), Philippines.